Somewhere in Birmingham, England, a teacher has been using my book A Good Home to teach English to her students.
Why? I wondered as I read her email.
You see, I never knew what readers would make of my book. For one thing, so much of it was written piece by piece, over many years – a series of private memoirs, an ongoing “journal” never meant to be published. My writing was descriptive, yes, but also simple.
I wrote about what I was seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling at the time. About my family, neighbours, friends. A special home. A beloved pet. A garden. A flower. A chance encounter. And even a tragedy or two.
Not for others to read, but for myself. Because I wanted to remember those moments.
“It’s an excellent example of descriptive, emotive writing”, the English teacher wrote.
My reply must have been a disappointment. It’s easily the least descriptive thing I’ve ever written.
“I’m at a loss for words,” I wrote, still stunned. But good manners kicked in. I gave her a heartfelt thank-you.
Now that I’ve gotten over my surprise, I can tell you this: she made my day. In fact, she made my whole week.
“Someone’s using my book to teach English,” I silently repeated.
From her home in Toronto, a woman sent me an email. She said she’d nurtured the dream of returning to the thing she loved most – writing – but years had passed and she still couldn’t find the right space or time to do it.
I urged her to stop for a few minutes. To record a thought, an image, a scene — anything … and never mind about making it sound fancy.
“Write,” I’d told her. “Just write.”
Later, I followed up with another email: “Have you written today?”
This week, I got an email from her. She’s back at her craft… and using the story of our exchanges to inspire others. These “others” are people I will likely never meet. But with luck, at least one of them will similarly encourage and inspire someone else.
With a few words in their email notes, the English teacher and the Toronto writer both gave me a gift — at a time when I needed to be uplifted.
The original email exchanges with the Toronto writer, for example, happened at a time when my body was so inflamed with pain that I felt useless and miserable – unable to help myself or anyone else. Dragging myself to the computer was unbelievably difficult. It never occurred to me that the few words I wrote would help to change someone’s life.
Nor, I suspect, did the teacher or the writer know what a positive impact their own words would have on me. But then again, I didn’t know that the ongoing “journal” of moments in my life would become a book that others would value.
But this much I know:
Words have power. We don’t know, when we write them, how they will affect others. But they do.
This post is dedicated to Paddy Chung and his wife Jacqui, two of my favorite people, whose words and deeds are uplifting. Not surprisingly, I wrote about them in my book. (You may even remember them from “The Harvest”.)
13 thoughts on “You Just Never Know”
So happy to hear of the positive affect your memoirs are having on others, Cynthia. To add my own thoughts… I have had ‘A Good Home’ here in the house for a few weeks, but haven’t been able to read it. The reason? My young-at-heart mother, who’s turning 91 next month, picked it up and is absolutely loving it. “Such a change from all the gory shows on TV,” she told me. “It’s full of nice stories that make you feel good. It helps me sleep better at night.”
Hopefully, Mom will finish the book soon, so I can have the pleasure. I volunteer with a memoir writing class for seniors and I’m thinking ‘A Good Home’ would serve as a beautifully written and instructive reference for next year’s class. Thanks, Cynthia !
Thank you! And your mother too.
Wishing you both a good day.
You can tell it’s Sunday around these parts. It snowed last night…..
oops, Editor’s alert. Make that positive ‘effect’. 🙂
You sure proved yourself an editor there. Just couldn’t leave that very small typo alone… (smile)
I love and enjoy good stories that are well told. Thanks.
Thank you, Jules. I’m wishing you a good week.
What you say about words and power is so true and what a lovely thing to hear, that your book is being used in classes! Oh yeh. Nice one.
Thank you, MT.
Hope all goes well.
Yeh, right now things are pretty good. 😉
Glad to hear.
And has your English weather improved at all?
Ours is stubbornly cold and snowy, but as I like to say – at least it’s not grey slush.
Congratulations on your book being used as a book to teach English! It must have encouraged you indeed. A delight to read your post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
It was a lovely surprise.